Northwestern Mutual Foundation supports effort to use workplace health programs to improve child wellness
July 03, 2012 College News - The Northwestern Mutual Foundation has awarded a $96,000 grant to the Medical College of Wisconsin for a project designed to promote family health through the broadening of worksite wellness outreach.
The goal is to develop and pilot an innovative and model program that extends worksite health promotion efforts to the family environment to enhance the health of children in participating families. Project leaders believe that an effective wellness program can be implemented for families through employee wellness platforms, and that a pilot program that improves parenting skills will result in improved dietary intake and increased physical activity for kids.
“Worksite wellness programs have proven to be a very successful approach so far in improving the health of employees and saving health care dollars for employers. It really makes a lot of sense to extend it to families, especially since employer-sponsored health insurance plans cover all family members,” said principal investigator Jane Kotchen, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Educational Key Function of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) of Southeast Wisconsin. “I think that Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s generosity has been profound, and this project emphasizes the foundation is interested in innovative ideas.”
The project links partners within the CTSI, a consortium of local academic, health and research institutions. The Medical College is joined in the effort by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University. They are additionally teaming with the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee to identify local employers to participate in the study.
Together, the organizations will identify corporate partners, survey potential participants and initiate an online, authoritative parenting program via existing corporate wellness initiatives to improve health, with an emphasis on childhood obesity. Authoritative parenting is a style that nurtures a close parent-child relationship while maintaining rules, guidelines and expectations.
“Instilling healthy habits in children and families is a powerful way for Northwestern Mutual to leave a legacy to future generations,” said John Kordsmeier, President of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. “We believe this project may help address childhood wellness, and more broadly, may demonstrate that whole family wellness can be achieved through interventions made available through the workplace.”
The program will foster healthy family environments that are essential for sustained healthy habits and wellness among children. Improving obesity-producing lifestyles is a key goal since obesity-related chronic health problems originating in childhood are often life-long.
“We have learned through research that programs involving parents and children in a family context are the most effective in preventing and treating childhood obesity,” said Medical College President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD. “Being one of Northwestern Mutual’s healthy habits grant recipients is an honor and validates that our collaborative approach to wellness puts people and the community first.”